The Vanderbilt University Board of Trust has approved $10 million to upgrade the Commodore baseball facility in a move to not only just keep up with the college Joneses but to persuade signees from going pro just out of high school.
The project will see Memorial Gym expanded to a point just beyond the left field wall of Hawkins Field, with batting cages relocated to an existing below-ground level of Memorial.
Relatedly, the ground level and top floor of Memorial will be renovated and expanded for "a state-of-the-art classroom," cardio room, expanded weight room, recruiting area and coaches' and staff offices. The weight room will be nearly double the size of the existing baseball weight room and will also be used by the university's basketball teams. There will also be a larger locker room to serve former Commodore players who return to train and mentor current players.
"We have placed the emphasis of this project where it should be — on the student-athletes," said David Williams, VU athletics director and vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs. "The new additions are designed to benefit them the most."
"First, we recruit elite high school baseball prospects who often are choosing between us and professional baseball," Williams added. "It is important that our facilities help them develop to their full potential. It is also imperative that we identify young men with strong academic interests because we all know our program develops more than just baseball skills.
Williams said VU wants "a welcoming and quality home" for former Commodores who are now professionals and return to the campus to train during the off season or to finish academic requirements.
More renderings and informaton are here.
The Los Angeles Dodgers believe Walker Buehler is a top-shelf pitching prospect.
For now, though, the former Vanderbilt right-hander will be put on the shelf. He will undergo reconstructive elbow surgery Wednesday on his pitching arm, a procedure that will sideline him for 12-18 months.
“We still think he is one of the top pitching talents in the draft,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We have the luxury of being able to play the long game. Even if it puts him a year behind, we think when he comes back he's going to justify where we selected him.”
Buehler was the last of three Vanderbilt players taken in the first round of this year’s MLB draft. The Dodgers selected him 24th overall and signed him to a deal that included a $1.78 million bonus.
He was a weekend starter for the Commodores throughout most of the season and threw three innings in the decisive game of the College World Series championship against Virginia.
Rules prohibit teams from performing a thorough examination of players prior to the draft. Zaidi said he was comfortable with Buehler despite the fact that he displayed some symptoms of elbow trouble.
“A week before we drafted him, he pitched in the College World Series and hit 97 [miles per hour],” Zaidi said. “Knowing his symptoms, there's always some degree of risk, but we didn't know for sure until we had our full medical exam.”
Curt Casali’s two home runs in a game Monday were unexpected.
Two more Tuesday was unprecedented.
From the Tampa Bay Times:
That made him the first rookie catcher in major-league history to have back-to-back multi-homer games, topping Kenji Johjima, who did so in back-to-back starts (with a game in between) for Seattle in June 2006.
Casali also became the first catcher overall to do so since Mike Napoli for Texas in September 2011, and just the second Rays player to do so, joining Greg Vaughn, who did so in 2002.
A role player for most of his 20 appearances this season, Casali, a 10th-round pick in 2011 by Detroit out of Vanderbilt, has started the last four games and has begun to look like someone who can contribute more consistently. With seven hits in 13 at-bats he has raised his batting average from .216 to .300 and with six RBIs he more than doubled his season total to 11.
The four home runs in the last two games are one more than he had in his first 48 Major League appearances over parts of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Both shots Tuesday came off Detroit Tigers pitcher David Price, who years ago hosted Casali during one of the latter’s recruiting visits to Vanderbilt. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Price, a five-time All-Star and the 2012 A.L. Cy Young Award winner, left a congratulatory note and sent a similar text to Casali following the game.
“That was pretty cool," Casali said, via to the paper. "That's what type of guy he is. He's one of the best guys I know.
“… To do it off him, with what he's accomplished in his career, that was definitely special for me.”
Of course, what he’s done the last two days is special – period.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Dansby Swanson says that one of the most important lessons he learned during his three years as a Vanderbilt baseball player was to listen.
In particular, the first pick in the 2015 MLB draft wrote in an entry Friday on The Players Tribune, it is best to heed the advice of those who experiences exceed yours. The program established by coach Tim Corbin not only makes it easy to understand the benefits of doing so, it provides easy access to those exact types of resources.
What do you say when Sonny Gray, David Price and Pedro Alvarez are behind the batting cage watching you hit?
Not much. You just listen to their advice.
That was how Swanson started his piece on the website, founded by New York Yankees great Derek Jeter that allows athletes to provide first-person accounts of their lives and careers. Swanson talked at length about a preseason workout in Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez offered extensive advice on how to study pitchers and approach at-bats. Alvarez, of course, was an All-American third baseman with the Commodores.
Swanson also said Price, currently a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers, is “like a big brother to me” as he talked about the enduring connection to the program for former Vanderbilt players.
At Vandy, we always had Major Leaguers stopping by, saying hello to Coach Corbin, lifting at the gym and getting to know the current team. Once people leave, they always come back. It says something about the love that everyone has for this place.
Swanson’s story provides a clear sense of his appreciation for the Vanderbilt baseball program – and makes it seem highly likely he’ll be back to help future members.
(Photo: Getty Images)
That didn’t take long.
After one appearance that consisted of one inning pitched, the Chicago White Sox promoted Carson Fulmer to their High-A affiliate at Winston-Salem.
He started for Winston-Salem on Thursday and threw two shutout innings. He struck out three and allowed one walk and one hit in a 3-2 victory.
Fulmer retired the first five batters he faced then allowed a walk and a single that, with help from an error, put runners on second and third with two outs. He got out of the inning – and wrapped up his night – with a ground ball back to the mound that he fielded. He threw to first for the third out.
“Obviously, just getting my feet wet is big,” Fulmer said. “It’s my first time out here on a stage like this. Sometimes you don’t know what to expect but … going out there all I wanted to do was throw strikes, get momentum on our side as fast as possible and really just start the game on a good note.”
The former Vanderbilt star who was drafted eighth overall this year, made his professional debut Saturday for the White Sox team in the Arizona League. He started and pitched just one inning in which he allowed one hit, recorded one strikeout and picked off the only runner that reached base against him.
“I’m blessed to be a part of an organization like this. There’s great personnel. There’s great coaching and the players are so welcoming. Coming from school and coming into a professional organization there’s a lot of things that are unknown.
“… It’s a privilege to play baseball and to be able to earn a living doing it. So I don’t feel any pressure. I’ll stick to my routines and stuff that I’ve done since I was very young.”
Maybe he’ll even stick around this level for more than one game.
(Photo: Vanderbilt athletics)
Anyone who watched Dansby Swanson play at Vanderbilt expects the time will come – sooner rather than later – when he steps into the batter’s box at a Major League stadium.
For his part, however, Swanson did not see Monday as that time.
According to FoxSports.com, he had dinner Sunday with Diamondbacks scouts and spent Monday getting acquainted with others in the organization and Chase Field prior to that night’s game against Miami. He spent the third inning in the broadcast booth.
When offered the opportunity to take batting practice prior to the contest, he declined.
"It's their space, their time; they're trying to get ready for a game," Swanson said, according to FoxSports.com. "I'm not one to interrupt that.
"Whenever I get the chance to earn it that's when I'll be out there doing it. As for now, I'll let them have it; it's their field."
Swanson will begin his pro career this week with Salt River Fields in the Arizona Rookie League and the plan is for him to move to High-A Visalia after a week to 10 days. Once that season is complete he will play in the Arizona Fall League.
“My goal since I was little is to be the best I can, whatever that may be," Swanson said. "I have a lot of belief in myself that one day I can be one of the better players in this league. But for right now I just have to take it day by day to get to that point.”
Swanson’s deferential approach was not lost on those for whom Chase Field is currently their professional home.
“He's a wonderful kid,” Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said. “He's very confident but knows where he is and what he has to do to get here to the big leagues. He's excited to start his journey and had a lot of good questions.
"He's got a great mind for the game. He understands we have a good young core here and he wants to be a part of that someday. But he knows it's got to come in the right timetable.”
And Monday was not the right time to take batting practice with the Major League team.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Maybe Rhett Wiseman’s first full week as a professional baseball player could have gone better.
As it was, though, it was the best of anyone in the New York-Penn League.
The former Vanderbilt outfielder was named NYPL Player of the Week on Monday after he went 9-for-25 (.360) with a double, two home runs, six runs scored and seven RBIs from July 13-19. He also stole two bases.
The third-round draft pick by the Washington Nationals made his pro debut on July 10 with the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays, the Nationals’ Class A short-season affiliate. He has had at least one hit in all but two of the 11 games he has played and through Monday had a five-game hit streak that included four multi-hit performances.
Overall, he is batting .325 and has a team-leading three home runs.
“Physically, you look at him and he's a big, strong kid,” Doubledays manager Gary Cathcart recently told The (Auburn, N.Y.). Citizen. "He's aggressive at the plate and in everything that he does. There's a lot to work with there, and I'm excited about what kind of player he could be.”
As good as he has been, the team is currently 12-17 and in fourth place in its division. It has lost three straight, the second longest current skid among the 14 NYPL clubs.
“Everyone I met has been so welcoming,” Wiseman told The Citizen. “The organization has treated me well, and I'm looking forward to getting on the right track with these guys and starting to win some ballgames.”
For now he’ll have to be content with winning an award.
It was a big weekend for Vanderbilt baseball’s three 2015 first-round draft picks.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson and pitcher Walker Buehler each signed with their respective teams shortly before Friday’s deadline to do so. The next night pitcher Carson Fulmer made his professional debut.
In the case of Swanson, the first overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the deal was done just in the nick of time.
According to an MLB.com report, “the two sides didn't come to terms until 10 minutes before the deadline, although both parties had been in communication over the past several days.”
Swanson received a signing bonus of $6.5 million, under the assigned slot value of $8,616,900.
“We felt we made a competitive offer," D-backs senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson said. "There's definitely some relief because we were picking No. 1; we were able to sign our first-round pick and get him in the fold. Now, it's about getting him prepared to achieve some of his goals and dreams."
The report said Swanson likely would be assigned to Class A (advanced) Visalia.
Buehler, the 24th pick, also got less than his slotted value to sign with Los Angeles. Rather than join any of the Dodgers farm teams, though, he will undergo Tommy John surgery and spend roughly a year or so in rehab.
Buehler's bonus is for less than his slot value of $2,094,400, and CBSSports.com reported that he will need to undergo Tommy John surgery. Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi declined to comment on Walker's health or say when he might begin pitching for the organization.
"We're obviously excited to have him on board," Zaidi said. "He finished the college season strong, obviously pitched in the College World Series. So beyond that, we don't have any comment for the time being."
Fulmer, the eighth overall selection, signed with the Chicago White Sox two weeks earlier and finally got his chance Saturday with that team’s Arizona League affiliate. He was the starter but pitched only the first inning. He struck out the first batter he faced, allowed a single to the second but then picked him off first base, and then got a fly ball to end the inning.
An impressive debut, on a handful of pitches - which included a few mid-upper 90's fastballs (94-96), and a few curveballs in the mid 80's. Even more impressive: 2 of the 3 Angels he faced were rehabbing top prospects.
It was going to cost Sonny Gray a chance to pitch in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
So the Smyrna native and former Vanderbilt All-American used Sunday’s start to reaffirm why he was one of 13 pitchers named last week to the American League roster for the annual showcase, which takes place Tuesday in Cincinnati.
Gray threw a two-hit shutout for the Oakland A’s in a 2-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians. He allowed just two singles, one in the fourth inning and one in the eighth, plus one walk. He struck out six.
It was his first shutout of the season and third of his career.
“He was so good,” catcher Stephen Vogt, Oakland’s only other All-Star, said via MLB.com. "His ball was cutting a lot, it was sinking a lot. (Sunday) was probably the best curveball he's had in a long time. He smells blood and just goes for it. (Sunday), his ball was cutting up to four to six inches at times. It was just a lot of fun to watch him do what he does best.”
According to the CBA: Any starting pitcher elected or selected to the All-Star team who makes a start on the Sunday immediately preceding the All-Star Game ("Sunday Pitcher") shall have the option to participate or not participate in the All-Star Game. If such starting pitcher elects to participate in the All-Star Game, he will not be permitted to pitch for more than one inning, and he may also inform his manager that he should be removed from the game if he reaches a certain pitch count (irrespective of whether he has completed one inning), provided such pitch count is reasonable.
The agreement goes on to say that: If a Sunday Pitcher who was originally named to the team elects not to participate in the All-Star Game, he will be replaced on the roster but treated in the same manner as other All-Stars who are excused from participation, and he will be encouraged to attend and be announced at the All-Star Game.
Gray’s Sunday performance made him the A.L. leader in ERA (2.04) at the All-Star break. His 10 wins (he’s 10-3) are tied for second in the league.
A first-time All-Star, he has said he will not exercise his option to pitch on short rest.
He will, however, start the A’s next game, Thursday against Minnesota.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Half of the Vanderbilt players selected in this year’s Major League Baseball draft have now taken the money and moved on.
Pitchers Philip Pfeifer and Tyler Ferguson and outfielder Rhett Wiseman all signed professional contracts Thursday. In so doing, all three gave up their final year of college eligibility and brought to four (of eight) the number of drafted players who have signed this year.
Eighth overall selection Carson Fulmer signed with the Chicago White Sox last week.
Pfeifer, a fourth-year junior, was a third-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The winningest pitcher in Tennessee high school history, he became a weekend starter this year after having sat out the 2014 season for personal reasons. Pfeifer was 10-6 in his Vanderbilt career, including 6-5 with a win over TCU at the College World Series this year. According to MLB.com, his signing bonus was $722,500.
Wiseman, a junior, also was a third-round draft pick. He went to the Washington Nationals three picks after Pfeifer was selected. He tied for the team lead with 15 home runs un 2015.
Ferguson, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, signed with the Texas Rangers, who selected him in the sixth round. He never fully realized his potential with the Commodores and appeared in just 15 games this season. Ferguson finished with an 11-6 record in 40 career appearances.
The deadline for drafted college players to sign professional contracts is July 17.
First-round picks Dansby Swanson (Arizona) and Walker Buehler (Los Angeles), 12th-round choice Zander Wiel (Minnesota) and 39th-round selection John Kilichowski (Chicago Cubs) remain unsigned.
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